Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Friday, January 19, 2018

Series Review: Parks and Recreation

Warning: This review includes some minor spoilers

I’m really horrible at watching TV. I hate reality shows, I can only manage following one TV show at a time, and I want to truly care about relatable characters. When I finally gave in to the peer pressure to spend my summer watching Parks and Recreation, I hated it. But I powered through the first few episodes, until suddenly it became everything I ever wanted in a TV series, and I found myself crying at the final goodbye.

Parks and Recreation, starring Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, follows a team of charming individuals working in the parks department in the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana. The first few episodes are bleak, as the team attends a meeting about town issues. The story begins as Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) complains that her boyfriend, Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt), fell into an abandoned construction site next to her home, breaking both of his legs. Knope promises to transform the pit into a beautiful park.

The storyline moves slowly as we are introduced to other characters and Knope continues to fight for the rights to make a park. The first season only lasts six episodes, and suddenly season two brings out a significantly smarter plot line. Perkins takes time out from her nursing career to volunteer at the parks department, deepening her friendship with Knope, and she breaks things off with Dwyer after he is fully rehabilitated. He doesn’t go far though, as he continues to live in the pit next to her home. By the end of season two, the characters have become strong, witty and likeable.

Every character has very specific relationships with each other, allowing for a very tight bond between the entire cast. My personal favorite character was always April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), who prides herself in her love for making others uncomfortable. She consistently refers to her hate for everyone, says things totally out of the blue that usually relate to death, witches or something disgusting, while somehow managing to find true love and happiness by the end. She starts out in season one as the 19-year-old intern and finds herself working in the parks department years later.

Relationships blossom throughout the series, and many characters who seemed extremely closed off are finally able to open up. Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) is the government-hating head of the parks department. He prides himself on his ability to lead a team of government workers who have zero ambition so he, in turn, can get nothing done. His heartless leadership is the key for the parks department's failures, and his character perfectly compliments Knope’s go-getter attitude and obsessive love for government. Throughout the series their friendship grows until Swanson seems like he may have a little bit of a heart.

Towards the end of season two the dynamic duo of Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) join the cast. At first I was strongly against the addition. Wyatt was cold and Traeger was far too uplifting, like the writers were trying too hard to find another pair of opposite characters to compliment each other. By mid-season three the characters had found their place in City Hall, and you’ll be head over heels for the budding Knope-Wyatt love affair. Wyatt learns to warm up, and turns out to be an adorable, supportive man for Knope to spend her time with.

Though many shows lose their charm a few seasons in, Parks and Recreation actually finds its charisma over time. By season four the show is undoubtedly hysterical and addicting in its own way. This season includes a confusing but wonderful romance between Ludgate and Dwyer, who constantly make you wonder how such a dark, heartless girl and goofball air-head of a guy could be so in love. But somehow it works, especially when they role play in public spaces.

At points the show may seem a little “too political”, but honestly it spends more time poking fun at the way the government functions (and especially the media’s twisted way of looking at it) that a knowledge or even general interest in politics is not a prerequisite. Knope grows as a politician, and in her new role as a councilwoman in season five, the show pokes fun at how absurd the American people can be. Knope tries to pass laws regulating the size of a soda cup at a local burger joint and increasing sex education in the senior center due to an outbreak of STDs, but the people always push back. Knope finds herself always fighting for what’s right, and in many occasions attempting to solve very extreme but feminist problems in government.

Other characters add fun to the mix, like Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), who somehow landed in the parks department despite only having passion for running his own, flashy business. Throughout the series he tries, and ultimately fails, numerous business ventures. His hip lifestyle adds a fun flair to the mix, and is a satire on the Millennial culture of technology, fame and fortune. His sidekick, Donna Meagle (Retta) is a lighter version of Haverford, and they play off of each other seamlessly. Meagle secures her character in the beginning credits midway through season six, along with Jerry Gergich (Tom O’Heir), who replace Perkins and Traeger as lead characters once they leave the show.

While the show attempts to fill the holes left by Perkins and Traeger with new characters, the final two seasons feel unbalanced. Season six continues along with Haverford’s new business endeavor, Tommy’s Bistro being a major talking point.

The final season, season seven, though not a complete disaster, in no way compares to the previous seasons. The show pushes you three years into the future, where Knope and Wyatt have three kids (who seem to magically never be around), and the parks department is entirely overhauled. Everyone has moved on to bigger and better things, and it only seems fitting that the audience should as well. The show slowly makes everything come to a close, with a glorious finale including an epilogue for each character.

Parks and Recreation was truly a wonderful journey, and I would highly recommend you spend your time binge watching this laugh out loud production. Power through the first season and I promise it will be worth it.

Parks and Recreation is available on Netflix.

aweg@theeagleonline.com


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